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Browns Browns Archive The Year This Week Didn't Suck: Week 14
Written by Jonathan Knight

Jonathan Knight

browns steelers 2009As we struggle to survive another season with the new-era Browns, one way we can try to get through it (besides alcohol or heavy medication) is to look back at the best individual weeks of the Browns’ new era to remember times in recent memory when this particular week didn’t suck.

Following the events of last week, by now Browns fans are probably bored with the concept of their team defeating the Pittsburgh Steelers.

And yet it’s still probably a good idea to reflect back on some of these occasions, just so we don’t begin taking them for granted.

So let us travel back to four years ago this week, when the Steelers came to town on a Thursday night for an experiment in what football would be like if played inside the freezer in your garage.

Put simply: it was cold. Really cold. As cold as a well-digger’s belt-buckle...on Venus.

The wind-chill factor at kickoff was six below zero - not quite Red Right 88 cold, but in the pitch dark of that Thursday night, with Lake Erie’s icy blackness making it look like the River Styx, it felt even more desolate.

The only thing colder than the temperature coming into the contest were the Browns themselves. They stood at a paralyzing 1-11 and had lost 17 of their last 18 games. So it was the perfect time to trot the defending Super Bowl champions into town.

As if that weren’t enough, this was a defending Super Bowl champion that essentially had made the Browns their Pulp Fiction gimp for a decade. The Steelers had defeated the Browns 12 straight times going into that Thursday night - the longest losing streak to a single team in franchise history - including a pathetically easy October victory in which Pittsburgh rolled up 543 total yards without even wearing shoulderpads.

True, the defending champs had fallen on relatively hard times themselves, dropping four straight games to fall to 6-6 going into Week 14. But come on. Nobody expected the Browns to do anything but lie down and begin crying the moment the Steelers took the field.

In the early going, it became clear both teams were affected by the arctic conditions. Bundled up like hypochondriac rhinoceroses, the players lumbered around the field primarily trying not to hit the ground. Neither offense managed much of anything all night, but the Browns pulled off the first - and one of the only - big plays when Josh Cribbs muffed the catch on a punt return, then scooped up the football and raced through the polar winds and the Pittsburgh coverage for 55 yards to the Steelers’ 8. It set up a Phil Dawson field goal and a 3-0 lead.

The margin spread to six points after a long Mohamed Massaquoi reception set up another field goal, then swelled to 13-0 when a 37-yard run by Cribbs out of the Wildcat formation sparked a long drive downfield. Chris Jennings - who you probably don’t remember but was the Browns’ No. 1 running back at the time - took it in from the Pittsburgh 10 just before the half and incredibly, the Browns were in complete control.

The Steelers quickly scurried downfield for a field goal to cut the margin to 10 before the intermission, then pulled within a touchdown on another field goal late in the third. But that, for all intents and purposes, was it. Pittsburgh meandered into Cleveland territory twice in the fourth quarter, but the Cleveland defense halted the Steelers both times to secure a frozen, but still satisfying 13-6 triumph.

While Cribbs’ big plays and the Browns’ creative use of him garnered the attention the following morning as fans tried to regain feeling in their extremities, it was the defense that had delivered their first win over the Steelers in six years. The Browns permitted just 216 yards of offense and smeared Ben Roethlisberger into the ice-crusted turf eight times - each one more enjoyable to watch than the one before.

The victory sparked an enjoyable but ultimately damaging four-game winning streak that helped ensure Eric Mangini would be back for a second year (or more to the point, made incoming Mike Holmgren hesitant to pull the trigger he really wanted to pull). And we were off to the races for another wasted season the following year.

Still, who would bemoan a Browns’ win over the Steelers? Especially back then, when they were so few and far between.

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